The Secret to Not Drowning by Colette Snowden

The Secret to Not Drowning by Colette Snowden
(PS – I love this cover)

The Secret to Not Drowning by Colette Snowden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book started with one of the most intriguing sentences to a book opening that I have read in a while: ‘There are four people in the room and only one of them is me’. I paused when I read it, tried to contextualise it and realised that I couldn’t. It was only when I got to the end of the book that I realised the power of that first sentence.

There is a cold familiarity to Marion’s story, that of being trapped in an abusive relationship, afraid to be herself, afraid to upset the fragile equilibrium of a marriage mired in controlling behaviour, but most of all, afraid to be herself. So afraid is Marion of being herself, that we never really get to know her as well as we would like. She is always holding something of herself back. She is always ‘fine’, even though, with the privilege of the reader, we know that she is not. I also thought the namelessness of her husband, referred to only by the capitalised pronouns of He and Him, so that we see that he has become to her almost a feared God, was particularly disturbing.

There is some really clever tension building in the writing, with the rhythm and subtle repetitions of certain sentences echoing the monotony and loneliness of Marion’s life – ‘I want to lie down and sleep for a hundred years’. Her unhappiness stretches across the page as her wish to settle into the oblivion of sleep lengthens in time.

However, the book, for me, lost some of its power as it progressed. There were times when I had to walk away from the book, so unbearable was the tension. When her husband discovers that she had lied to him, I expected the fall out to be worse than what it was. Julie’s own emotional issues were also somewhat overplayed and diminished the friendship story that had been building between the two women.

One annoyance, which I really struggle to understand, and didn’t feel right for me given how the dog became a gateway for Marion to communicate with others, is how Marion could then leave her dog with her husband. That, and the somewhat abrupt ending, lessened the impact of the book for me somewhat.

Yet even in spite of this, The Secret to not Drowning was a powerful read. Marion’s story is one that many women will be able to relate to. It is the story of her journey as she tries to find herself, lost somewhere in the misery of her marriage. I think, as you read her story, you are willing her to leave. When you care about a character that much, you know you are reading a good book.

View all my reviews

Published by Deborah Siddoway

Dickens enthusiast, book lover, wine drinker, writer, lover of all things Victorian, and happily divorced mother of two lovely (and very tall) boys.

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